Saturday 15 April 2017

Thumbs up or down: Sellers’ opinion divided on Amazon’s Payment Reports
Reconciling online marketplace payments is not an easy task. With a host of charges, penalties, fees and returns, sellers often struggle with payment reconciliation. But does the level of struggle differ from marketplace to marketplace?
Yes, it does, according to online sellers.
“Why the reports of Amazon are complicated? Do they want sellers to hire extra help? The payment, sales and other reports are in txt format instead of excel format,” wrote online seller SS (name withheld on request) in his email to Indian Online Seller (IOS).
IOS decided to probe further and understand the issue.

Why deciphering Amazon’s payment reports is a herculean task, asks the seller

SS, a retail and wholesale supplier of LPG stoves, started selling on Amazon India thinking that it would be an additional sales channel. He claims that extracting specific data and information from payment reports provided by Amazon is extremely difficult. This makes it a seller unfriendly online platform, unlike Snapdeal. He has no idea for which orders he has been paid, since he started selling on Amazon.
“They (Amazon payment reports) have always been complex. I am also selling on Snapdeal. Their statements are so simple; you get the required info without any headache. The statement on Amazon is first downloaded in TXT format. First you have to convert them in excel to sort and get the required info. That part is also not a problem. But overall the statements are very difficult to get any info out of them. Even Amazon sellers help were not able to provide me with the information I required. At the end of the call (with seller support executive) the Amazon person admitted that it was difficult to get the required info by him,” states seller SS.
SS has a very specific issue. For example: Let’s say he received Rs. 60,000 payment in March. His issue is that he can’t see the break-up of this payment. He can’t see the payment is released against which of his orders. He can see these details on Snapdeal in just one click. But on Amazon, the payment report doesn’t reveal the detailed break-up of orders, charges, penalties etc at one glance in one sheet.
IOS reviewed the telephonic conversation between the seller and Amazon’s seller support team member. The executive did admit that it won’t be easy to generate the report that the seller is seeking.

The thumbs down gang

When IOS asked other sellers to share their views on Amazon’s reconciliation practices and reports, we were surprised to find opposing views. Some say it is very complicated and some say it is the best.
Let’s start with the ones that give it thumbs down.
Online seller Sanchit Goyal says,
“Payments on Amazon are a complete mess… it is very complicated. When a payment is received Amazon keeps some amount with itself as a “safety measure” to deal with return request etc in future. The system is more complicated for sellers who use FBA or Easyship, which are Amazon shipping services. Because in these cases there are multiple returns and transactions are difficult to track. Since, I use self ship at least that is not a problem.”
While seller SS thinks Snapdeal’s format is seller friendly, Sanchit thinks that eBay is far more transparent than Amazon.
“On ebay the system is completely transparent. You get daily emails about products received by buyer or treated as received after specific time. Payments received have a break up product wise mentioning commission and all details,” affirms Sanchit.
Seller Sachin from AnjaliMix also has the same opinion as SS and Goyal.
Sachin shares,
“Yes, to reconcile payments on Amazon is quite difficult as compared to other marketplaces. What they do is provide all info about payment row wise and order wise. All info is not given at once; it’s scattered throughout the sheet which makes it difficult for sellers to reconcile the order wise payments. Third party services providd order wise remittance details by charging certain amount per order.”
According to Sachin, Snapdeal and Shopclues have minimal issues in this regard.

The thumbs up gang

Not everyone finds Amazon’s payment reports complicated. According to seller Anubha Saxena, the reports are quite convenient.
“We do not face any issues regarding payments or generating related reports from the side of Amazon. It has a fair system and we have cross-checked multiple times with our accounts and we did not find any discrepancies. Also, we always check the reimbursements for all the claims raised by us and we always find that if Amazon communicates the same to us, it also pays us. We are satisfied with the system as of now,” says Anubha.
We asked Anubha if she agrees with SS’ views. She said she doesn’t as there is a transaction view in Amazon in which the settlements against each order are shown.
Here’s a summary of the tabs present on Amazon’s seller panel for payments:
  1. Statement View: It shows a summary of payments – the total balance, remittance of this week and unavailable balance. It also shows the total of Product charges, Promo rebates, Amazon fees, Postage & gift-wrap credits, Refunds made etc
  2. Transaction View: It shows the details of settlements for individual orders
  3. All Statements: A summary of all the weekly payouts and charges
  4. Date Range Reports: It has pre-generated reports. Plus, once can also generate custom reports and search individual orders
  5. Advertising Invoice History: It shows your ad spends, CPC, Impressions, ACOS and sales for different periods
“These options (abovementioned tabs) are available for both COD and prepaid orders. Amazon has most comprehensive reports amongst all ecommerce portals. It is just that all the sellers are not aware about it and hardly anyone refers to its help section for learning more,” emphasizes Anubha.
Online seller GS (name withheld on request) also gave it thumbs up by saying,
“Amazon Payment system is really nice and very friendly. There is no confusion in it from my side.”

We have the most transparent process, says Amazon India

IOS reached out to Amazon India and laid out the payment reports issue that few sellers are facing. While speaking to IOS, the company’s spokesperson says, “Amazon India always works backwards from sellers needs and constantly innovates on their behalf to help them grow their business online profitably and seamlessly. We have the most transparent processes on our platform, including payment details to sellers.”
As per the marketplace’s representative:
  • The payment reports are directly mapped to the sellers’ disbursement cycles and they provide separate reports for electronic and COD payments
  • It include details of product sold, transaction type, sales channel, product price, fee charged, tax deducted to give sellers a holistic overview of their order wise payments and other non-order related transactions like reserves, storage fee, removals and claims etc.
  • Sellers have an option to download payments reports on Seller Central per settlement cycle as well as get custom date range reports
  • Additionally, sellers can also refer to the “Track payments – view my payments reports” video tutorial in Seller University and on Amazon India YouTube channel anytime to learn more about Amazon’s payment reports

Contributing Factors to these opposing views

After hearing out multiple sellers’ contrasting views on Amazon’s payment reports, we realised that three major factors have contributed to this divide. They are:
  • Volume of business
  • Knowledge about reconciliation tools
  • Maintaining own accounts
The ones with huge volume of orders (and returns) are finding it difficult to decode and analyze Amazon’s payment reports. It is complicated in particular for the ones that don’t maintain (and regularly update) their own online marketplace reconciliation and accounting records.
Should Amazon India simplify its process like Snapdeal, eBay and Shopclues? Yes, of course! But sellers who track every transaction and maintain accounts for their ecommerce business don’t find payment reconciliation as intimidating as those who don’t. Upgrading your knowledge about the various ecommerce practices through online tutorials also helps in the long run. In addition, ask your fellow sellers about the MS Excel tools/formulas and software they use to sort out data.
Online sellers, do you have any tips for Amazon India to improve its reconciliation process? And any tips for sellers who are struggling with the complicated payment reports? Please do share.

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